I’m writing this blog entry with an heavy heart. After all that happened today and all the heartbreak and bittersweet thoughts that I have over the past couple of hours, as the basketball season of UAAP Season 76 all came down to one game. As the UST Growling Tigers battled with the De La Salle Green Archers for the right to be crowned the new UAAP men’s basketball champion in 6 years.
But before we got to that moment, let’s look back at the events that led to this moment.
UST came in as the 4th seed in the Final Four after finishing 9-5 in the elimination round where they were hampered with injuries and tough losses. But they peaked at the right moment after they picked up a huge win over the FEU Tamaraws in double overtime, then surviving three knockout games which included a win that dethroned the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles to end the elimination round, and defeating the top-seeded NU Bulldogs twice to become the 1st #4 seed to knock out a #1 seed in the UAAP Final Four thus returning to the Finals for the second consecutive season.
As for La Salle, they struggled in the first round of eliminations finishing only at 3-4, but they found their groove in the second round as they finished with a 7-0 sweep to give them a 10-4 record, since they were tied for 1st place with NU and the FEU Tamaraws, NU got the top seed due to the quotient system. So the Archers and Tamaraws battled for 2nd place and a twice-to-beat advantage in their Final Four matchup. La Salle won that game handily, then when the Final Four began, the Tamaraws fought hard, however the Archers pulled off the breaks to book their ticket to the Finals for the first time since 2008.
Once the dust settled, UST and La Salle were left standing for all the marbles. One thing that made this matchup special is the battle of the Teng brothers as older brother Jeric of UST battles his brother Jeron of La Salle in what would be their first and last battle in the UAAP Finals. Aside from that, it’s the battle of the coaches with very contrasting personalities as the emotionally charged Pido Jarencio of UST went to war against the calm and calculated Juno Sauler of La Salle.
In Game 1, UST won by a solitary point 73-72 after Karim Abdul blocked the possible game winner of LA Revilla in the winding moments of the game. While in Game 2, La Salle won by 7 points 77-70 led by their twin towers of Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert Torres which set up this moment. Game 3 between the Tigers and Archers, one game for all the marbles.
As the game went along, both teams played with everything they have. The Tigers started hot in the first half while the Archers struggled to score baskets. King Tiger Jeric Teng and Karim Abdul led the charge for the Tigers in the first half and the Tigers went in with 8 point lead at halftime. Then in the second half, the Tigers kept on scoring big against the Archers, but everything changed as the Archers mad a furious rally to take the lead before John Sheriff bailed the Tigers out with a shot at the buzzer to keep the lead heading into the fourth. In the 4th quarter, both teams traded baskets. With the game tied at 65, the Tigers had a chance to win with 6 seconds left. But Aljon Mariano, missed the shot. Thus we went into overtime. Fatigue came into play as both teams struggled to score baskets. Then Jeric Teng gave the Tigers a two point lead with over a minute to go. Jeron Teng got into the lane and drew the foul where he split his free throws but Mariano who got the rebound turns the ball over setting up a clutch jumper by Almond Vosotros to give the Archers a one point lead. Then LA Revilla split his free throws to extend the lead to 2 for La Salle. The Tigers had their chances to tie or win the game. But Abdul missed on a tough trey as the Archers survived and won the game 71-69. The Archers win the title for the first time since 2007 and La Salle coach Juno Sauler did what UST coach Pido Jarencio pulled off in 2006 by winning the title as a rookie coach in the UAAP.
It was an emotional moment, as both the Teng brothers went through a lot of emotions, especially Jeric Teng who played out his final game in a Tigers uniform in the UAAP and the fact that he will not walk away with the championship. Jeron would win the Finals MVP trophy and had some nice words for his older brother. One special moment after the game was when the runner-up trophy was given to UST, the Lasallian faithful in attendance went on to cheer “Go USTe!” and when La Salle got their championship trophy, the Thomasian faithful went on to cheer “Animo La Salle!”. Well this shows, that the DLSUST friendship is alive and indeed true.
It’s an heartbreaking yet bittersweet moment for myself, heartbreaking with the fact that I will not get to experience the celebration of a championship for UST as a student, added to the fact that I wasn’t watching the game live at the Mall of Asia Arena which meant that I wasn’t able to watch a single game this UAAP season. While, it’s bittersweet since I said to myself that even if La Salle wins the title. I would still be happy for them.
At the end of the day though, it was indeed a championship series to remember, and I will always be proud to go all in for the BLACK GOLD, BLACK WHITE!
Congratulations to the De La Salle Green Archers, you deserve the championship.
A big kudos to the UST Growling Tigers, you’ve been through a lot of challenges this season and you made it a series to remember. To the graduating players Jeric Teng and Clark Bautista we will miss you putting up a UST jersey in the UAAP.
All hope is not lost though, we still have the chance to defend our PCCL title this year.
But for now, UAAP basketball for 2013 draws to a close.
Go USTe! Animo La Salle! Thank you for a great series.